Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sinai in Midian/Arabia

I've agreed before with placing Sinai in Midian and identifying it with Jabal El Lawz, and citing the research of Bob Cornuke to support that.

Recently I've read some critics of the view, fellows believers who are critics of it and who support the traditional site (or at least a Sinai Peninsula view), not Atheists.  Mainly two from the Idolphin website, Is Mt Sinai in Saudi Abrabia? and Problems with Mt Sinai in Saudi Arabia.

I'm not interested in addressing every criticism there, no one is perfect, and I'm very open to Sinai being not Jabal El Lawz but some other site in Midian or really anywhere in Arabia for reasons that will become clear later.  The main reason for favoring this mountain over other Midianite candidates is that it's the tallest.  1, only Extra Biblical sources say Sinai was the tallest, 2, things change and others might have been taller in the past.  I've recently developed an interest in Jabel al-Madhbah near Petra.

I've also been thinking, maybe Horeb and Sinai aren't the same mountain.  They certainly must be near each other though.

Nor am I as interested in denying that the traditional site has antiquity to it, maybe even before Helena though we're pretty much dependent on her word that a tradition already existed.

One argument against the traditional site not addressed is the significance of Edom not letting the Israelites pass through their land in Numbers 20.

First of all if they were coming from the Sinai Peninsula they would not have been dependent on Edom to enter the Promised Land from the South.  The Philistine lands at least were lands Edom wouldn't have ruled.

But second, Edom controlled everything between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, so if Israel couldn't pass through Edom how did they wind up east of the Jordan when the wandering was over?  And if you're going to object that maybe Edom didn't always control all the way to the Gulf of Aqaba then you are only further undermining the significance of not being allowed to pass through Edom being such an inconvenience and a large part of why they were stuck in this wilderness for 40 years.

I also do not see the necessity of crossing the Red Sea in the traditional view, and it often overlaps with the ridiculous "Sea of Reeds" argument, which only even works as a pun in English, the Hebrew is Yam Suf.  I've seen it claimed that Yam Suf refers specifically to the Gulf of Aqaba, but I'm not going to bet on that right now, but I know it includes that Gulf from references to Solomon's port on it in 1 Kings 9:26.

Also I personally have come to see the limited geography associated with the wandering even by Conruke and other Jabal El Lawz supporters as being pretty silly given this a 40 year wandering.  Yet if they were stuck in Sinai you have no choice but to limit it, and that limitation is the reason we became so used to viewing it's scale as so small.  Basically I think it's possible they wandered all over Arabia and Jordan.  The narrative parts of Exodus-Deuteronomy are mostly about specific situations and I do not think are a complete record of 40 whole years at all.   For a modern comparison, that is equivalent to from the Bicentennial, 1976, to this year (I'm writing this in late April 2016).  From the last year of Ford to the last year of Obama.  Also both World Wars happened in less then 40 years.

Arguing whether or not all of what we today call Sinai can be considered part of Egypt I would agree shouldn't be as big a deal.  But their certainty it was not has one big unacknowledged problem, that the Wadi Al-Arish is by any descent scholar known to be the the "River of Egypt" often refereed to as a Border of what was Promised to Abraham.  A few uninformed commentators will act like that is the Nile, but that idea is obviously absurd, clearly Egypt's heart was not it's border with Israel.

The allotments of Ezekiel 40-48 make clear the Sinai Peninsula was not part of what God promised to Israel.

They do not deny that Midian refers to land in North Western Saudi Arabia east of the Gulf of Aqaba.  But make all kinds of convoluted arguments to justify saying Jetho was a Priest East of Aqaba but his flocks were west of it.  His argument about Shepherds sometimes traveling long distances to tend their flocks is valid, in the modern world, and maybe in the ancient world, but that a Midanianite Priest wold have his flocks on effectively a different continent is ridiculous.

The first article attempts to use Exodus 18 and Numbers 10 to Prove Sinai was outside Midian.  Neither chapter says "Midian" in the verses cited, both are Midianite individuals talking while at Sinai of returning to their homeland.  Their homeland could very well have been a different part of Midian then where Sinai was.  Genesis 25:4 gives Midian 5 sons, and Numbers 31:8 divides Midian between 5 kings at this time.  (Speaking of Numbers 22, 25 and 31, how was Israel involved in a geo-political scenario that involved both Midian and Moab from the Sinai Peninsula?)  Bill Cooper in After The Flood (A book this same Website supports) says in Appendix 1 that the Kenites descended from Midian's son Henoch, why he thinks that is still unclear to me.

But it could be explained other ways too.  Like how when I go to Burlington, I've left Racine City but am still in Racine County.  Josephus in Antiquities of The Jews Book 2 says Moses came to a City called Midian.

For dealing with what Paul said in Galatians 4:24-26, they cite a few ancient Greek sources that define Arabia in a way that includes the Sinai Peninsula.  While I would concede that allows sufficient room for doubt, but it's clear the majority of Roman and Jewish references to Arabia clearly do not include it. Also in-context Paul is linking the mountain to Hagar and Ishmael, who were never located west of the Dead Sea/Edom.

The second article cites Josephus quoting Apion in against Apion as saying Sinai was "Between Egypt and Arabia" and says if Josephus disagreed with that he would have said so.  Josephus had bigger concerns here then a geographical error.  And we can't be sure what Apion meant given how Arabia clearly means different things in different references, either way Apion certainly doesn't agree with the other sources they care so much about that defines Arabia broadly enough to put Sinai within it.

Overall Josephus supports Sinai in Midian.  That website is a little confused by what Jospehus means when he refers to Petra, and how that effects dating Josephus.  Petra was the capital of the Nabatean Kingdom already before Rome conquered it.  But that need not discredit it's overall point.

But either way Josephus doesn't settle the matter, I unlike most fellow Revised Chronologists think Josephus was wrong when he said the Queen of Sheba ruled Egypt.  And I already said an antiquity for the traditional view proves nothing.  I don't necessarily expect the correct view to have antiquity because eventually the Midianites became Pagans and Israel as a Kingdom never ruled where Sinai was.

The second article also mentions the Muslim origins of the Arabian Sinai theory to try and discredit it.  I'm not so reactionary that I need to reject anything Muslims have ever thought just because their religion has a horrible theology.  I think the Muslim view of the Desert of Paran is probably the correct one, as I argued for on my Prophecy Blog about the Wandering.

The first article likewise cites the traditional Sinai view derived placements of Paran, Kadesh Barnea and Seir to support their Sinai view.  Jerome and Eusebius were Pre-Islamic non Arabic Christians who placed Paran is Arabia Desteria.  Arabia Desteria is a far more precise Roman geographical term that can't be reinterpreted by citing the broadest possible meaning for Arabia.  It refers specifically to the vast Arabian desert between the Nabatean Kingdom (Jordan) and Arabia Felix (Yemen).  Meaning Saudi Arabia basically.  And there is no proposed site for Sear that is east of the Gulf of Aqaba.

They argue that the Kadesh Barnea location suggested by Jabal El Lawz supporters to fit the eleven day journey statement would, since Barnea is also cited as a border of Israel, place all of Edom in Israel.  They are overlooking that the Tribal Allotments of Joshua also gave Asher all of Phoenicia including Tyre and Zidon in Joshua 19:24-31, and the Trans-Jordan Tribes much of Ammon they never actually took.  Israel was supposed to subject all these people but failed to, that is part of the theme of Judges.

The eleven days journey is also less of an issue if it's a more Northern Midianite mountain.  And I often think our modern assumptions underestimate how far an Ancient could travel in a given time period, this effects my perspective on a number of things.

There is good reason to believe Teman is modern Ma'an.  And the way Habakkuk 3:3 parallels Deuteronomy 33:2 has me thinking Seir was in Teman.

So Sinai being in Midian remains the only Biblically viable option.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Did the Magi/Wise Men really come from Persia/Parthia?

I've spent a lot of time on my Prophesy Blog playing up the Biblical significance of Persia, Media and Parthia.  So perhaps nothing is more shocking then to see me of all people argue for removing them from this Biblical theme.  And I've in the past supported Chuck Missler's the Magi were taught by Daniel conjecture, that depends on them coming from Persia.  But I've rethought much of this.

All of the stars rise in the East like the sun does, so saying they observed the Star of Bethlehem rising in the east I don't consider a clue to where they came from.  Likewise them coming to Jerusalem from the East could just mean they entered through an Eastern gate.  Now the location I'm going to suggest can be described as East of Jerusalem and Judea, but that's not necessarily the first or even primary geographical direction one is likely to use describing it's relationship to Judah.

Magi (translated Wise Men in the KJV) gets used as a proper name for a specific priesthood that is usually refereed to as Median in origin.  But the word is only in that exact form once of all the times it's used in Matthew 2, and it's used elsewhere in the New Testament like in Acts 8 and 13 to refer to Samaritan and Jewish miracle workers, no one connects either of those individuals to Persia, Josephus also uses the word of certain Jews.  The word Mage comes from the same term.  In Ancient Greek texts it in time simply became their standard word for Magician in-spite of being non-Greek in origin.  The following is copied form Wikipedia.
According to Robert Charles Zaehner, in other accounts, "we hear of Magi not only in PersiaParthiaBactriaChorasmiaAriaMedia, and among the Sakas, but also in non-Iranian lands like SamariaEthiopia, and Egypt. Their influence was also widespread throughout Asia Minor. It is, therefore, quite likely that the sacerdotal caste of the Magi was distinct from the Median tribe of the same name."
 Zaehner, Robert Charles (1961), The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, New York: MacMillan, p. 163.
Also in Jeremiah 39, Rabmag is clearly used of a Babylonian office.

Wikipedia is of course not always up to do date on how we now know the Median Magi were originally enemies of the Zoroastrian religion, they worshiped Mithra, they were not inclined toward Monotheism.

Isaiah 60:6 is often taken by scholars as being connected to the visit of the Magi because it refers to Gold and Incense/Frankincense, (in fact this verse is why they're often depicted riding Camels, Camels aren't mentioned in Matthew 2).  The ultimate fulfillment is clearly about the Messianic Kingdom (either the Millennium or New Jerusalem or both) but it's believed that the visit of the Magi at Jesus Birth serves as a lesser near fulfillment, the Myrrh isn't in the final fulfillment because it represents His Death which is in the past by that point.

But when suggesting this connection it's often forgotten that specific nations are named there.
The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of Yahuah.
All names linked to Arabia, but the big one is Sheba, indeed the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon is also thought of as connected to this since Solomon is also a type of the Messianic Kingdom.  Psalm 72 also further seems to back up Sheba playing this role.  Jeremiah 6:20 is also an interesting reference.

Indeed history shows that the various nations of Ancient Yemen including the Sabaeans were the leading exporters of Frankincense and Myrrh, so to First Century readers that's possibly the first place they'd think of reading Matthew's account.  And Gold we know could be found in this region because that's where Ophir was.  The Ancient Kingdom of Saba continued to exist till 275 AD.

Tony Maalouf argues the Magi were from Arabia in "Were the Magi From Persia or Arabia?", Bibliotheca Sacra, 156 (October 1999), 423-42.  The earliest report of the magi's place of origin is found in Justin Martyr, and he identifies them as Arabians (Dialogue With Trypho, 77). Clement of Rome, refers to Arabia as "the East", and associates the region with frankincense and myrrh, while addressing a context other than Matthew 2 (First Clement, 25).

Also Genesis 10:30 refer to Mount Sephar, a location in Yemen where Joktan's family settled, as a Mount of the East.

Christianity is believed to have come to this region as early as 70-135 AD among Jews who fled the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.

From around 275-570 AD various calamities reshaped ancient Yemen among them were the conquests of the Himyar and the collapse of the Ma'rib Dam.  That caused many Qahtanite/Joktanite Arabic tribes of Yemen to migrate North to Jordan and Syria.  Among these were the Tanukhids from whom came the Christian Queen Mavia(Māwiyya).  And the Gassanids who formed a Christian Kingdom that controlled modern Jordan and much of modern Syria and the Golan Heights.  And the Lahkmids who formed a Christian Kingdom in modern Iraq west of the Euphrates.

All in territory that was Biblically Ishmaelite, which probably explains why Mavia was mistakenly called an Ishmaelite in some Byzantine sources.  Many of the Ishmaelites (mainly of Kedar/Qedar) began migrating south to the areas of Mecca and Medina after the fall of the Nabatean kingdom during the reign of Trajan.

All of this further backs up that the Queen of Sheba must have been a Queen in Arabia not Africa.

The Koran in Sura 2:62 refers to those who already in some way believed in "Allah" before Muhammad, and were distinct from the pagan polytheists.  While most such references refer to only two groups, Jews and Christians, this one refers to three groups, those and the Sabeans.  I don't think Himyarite Jews are what is meant, in fact I think most of Muhammad's references to Jews had primarily Himyar and Yathrib in mind, especially the Anti-Semitic verses, those were the Jews that he fought wars with.  But I can't entirely rule them out either.

Jesus mentions the Queen of Sheba as an example of a Gentile who was saved.  Many extra-Biblical traditions say that results in a conversion of her entire Kingdom.  Maybe there is more truth to that then we thought.

The surviving Kings Lists of Sheba do not take us all the way back to Solomon's time.  But only to 755 or 750 BC.  This also seems to contradict certain traditions (mentioned in the Joktan link) that imply after king Phar'an the Kingdom was ruled only by Queens, (some of those look to me like they could be more feminine then our biases assume, but many are clearly masculine).  At face value those traditions imply the Queen who visited Solomon was the last.  But I have trouble seeing 60 Queens reigning in just the time from Reu to Solomon.  So perhaps 755-750 BC marks when the Matriarchy was supplanted by a patriarchy.

According to one version of the Kings List, the King at the time Jesus was born was Yadail Darih II, who reigned from 10 BC-10 AD.

But since we've discussed the subject of Sheba's relationship to matriarchy.  I feel like also pointing out that Matthew doesn't really tell us the gender of the Magi.

 [Since I originally made this post the dates have been removed from the Wikipedia page for the Kings Lists of Sheba and Himyar]